Is the internet ready for AI-generated fan fiction?

Fandom Fracas

Writers are threatening to pull their stories from Archive of Our Own (AO3), one of the world's largest fanfiction websites, after staff posted that they will not prohibit the publication of artificial intelligence-generated fanfiction on the website.

Typifying the anger, one Twitter user wrote that they "would rather have one hundred thousand unreadably bad human-written fics added to AO3 every day than one AI fic."

The fandom drama kicked off earlier this month when the nonprofit group Organization for Transformative Works (OTW), which oversees AO3, posted an excerpt of an interview with Betsy Rosenblatt, professor of law at The University of Tulsa and chairperson of OTW's legal committee, who expressed enthusiasm over AI scraping fanfiction on the Internet.

"One of the things that excites me — which is probably a bit off to the side of what most people are talking about with AI and copyright — is that AIs are reading fan fiction now," she said in the interview, originally published in February by the Association of Research Libraries.

Friends to Enemies

Fanfic writers expressed outrage.

"I think OTW’s Legal Chair Betsy Rosenblatt needs to step down," one wrote on Twitter. "I don't want a rep of OTW chatting happily about how great it is to train AI on fanfic."

But at least one writer was pleased that somebody, even an AI bot, was reading their smutty fanfic.

"AI CHATGPT fanfic bots scraping my AO3 and filling their neural networks with my depraved gay incest porn," one quipped.

Epilogue Ride

After deleting the interview excerpt and posting an apology, OTW published a blog post that said staff members had put in place "technical measures to hinder large-scale data scraping on AO3" in a bid to calm frayed tempers.

However, in the same blog post, OTW staff also wrote that AO3's Terms of Service does not prohibit AI-generated fanfiction.

"If fans are using AI to generate fanworks, then our current position is that this is also a type of work that is within our mandate to preserve," it wrote.

This isn't the first bump in the road for the fanfiction community when it comes to AI. It recently came to light, for instance, that Sudowrite, an AI writing assistant, was able to generate fiction that featured the concept "omegaverse," an erotic fanfiction trope — leading to suspicion that OpenAI's GPT, which powers Sudowrite, had trained its model on data scraped from the AO3 website, which has an ever-expanding trove of stories set in disparate worlds ranging from "Harry Potter" to Goethe's "Faust."

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